On the Benefits of Traffic Signal Removal

Certain intersections stand to gain from losing their traffic lights. According to this study, cities can save money and improve safety by uninstalling signals in low-traffic zones.
May 7, 2015, 1pm PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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New research from Wayne State University extols the advantages of removing unnecessary traffic lights. The researchers studied a sample of 100 signals across Detroit. Eric Jaffe writes, "Extrapolating those findings to all the lights deemed eligible for removal (1,021), [researchers] Schrader and Hummer concluded that Detroit could remove 460 signals, or 30 percent of its total inventory."

While it is true that depopulated Detroit suffers from a glut of seldom-used roadways, every city has its share of low-traffic intersections. The study provides four reasons that can justify signal removal. They include:

  • Removing a single traffic light can save up to $8,000 per year in operation and maintenance costs.
  • Signals can impede traffic flow as drivers wait alone at red lights.
  • Swapping signals for stop signs can improve driver concentration.
  • City taxpayers unfairly subsidize the travel of nonresidents by paying for the traffic lights they use commuting to suburbs.
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Published on Monday, April 13, 2015 in CityLab
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